China is home to two of the world’s largest cities, Shanghai and Beijing, with populations of 25 and 22 million people respectively. Not only are they two of the largest cities in the world, they attract hundreds of millions of tourists each year – Australians alone accounted for 125,000 tourists who visited China for holidays in the period from June 2016-June 2017.
If you’re looking to visit somewhere exotic, packed full of history with new sights and experiences, a trip to China is a must.
Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) is celebrated across the country in late January or early February, and is a great time to see the country in full swing. It’s an amazing celebration of fireworks, lanterns, elaborate decorations and delicious authentic food. It can be busy – a time described as the world’s largest annual human migration – but if you’re a lover of incredible cultural experiences, then add this one to your bucket list.
As exciting as a trip to China may be, it’s important to consider the risks of disease and illness that can very quickly turn an unbelievable trip of a lifetime into and unforgettable one, for all the wrong reasons.
Speak with your healthcare professional about which vaccinations or other preventative measures you might need prior to your departure.
Before you go to China
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all travellers are up-to-date with their routine vaccinations including; measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, polio, influenza, pneumococcal disease, haemophilus influenzae type B, human papillomavirus, rotavirus and varicella. Some of these vaccinations are given as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for individuals who meet the criteria. For a full list, refer to the NIP for details, available here. In some cases, you may need a booster or re-vaccination against a disease to ensure you still have immunity.
Other diseases that are considered a risk in China include hepatitis A, typhoid, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis and rabies. Your doctor will be able to let you know which vaccinations are recommended for you, based on the time of year, destination/s, activities planned and the duration of your stay.
All travellers should be up to date with their routine vaccinations before heading off to China. These include vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, chicken pox, polio and influenza. For a full list, refer to the National Immunisation Program
There is an increased risk of contracting hepatitis A and typhoid in China, both of which can be contracted through contaminated food or water.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. People are exposed to the virus generally through food or drink contaminated with faeces (poo), however, close personal contact (e.g.
Depending on where you are staying and what activities you have planned, the following vaccinations may be recommended for you by your doctor:
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese encephalitis
- Yellow fever (The Chinese government only requires proof of yellow fever vaccination if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. Australia is not at risk of yellow fever)
Some medications may be useful to prevent other diseases, such as malaria.
For travellers who are planning to visit the Xinjiang province (this region borders Pakistan) to work in a healthcare facility, refugee camp or humanitarian aid should ensure they’ve been vaccinated against polio, as you can contract polio by coming in contact with another person who has it. If you had the vaccine as a child, you may need a booster as an adult.
In 2017 there were 6,122 cases of hepatitis B recorded in Australia, of which 142 cases were “newly acquired” and 5,980 cases were “unspecified” in regards to the time lapse since first infection.
Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a viral infection of the brain spread by the bite of a particular type of mosquito.
Australia has been polio free since 2000. Due to a global effort to put an end to the disease, the number of globally reported polio cases has decreased by over 99% since 1988.
Australia has been free of rabies for a number of years. Australia does however have similar virus, which is found in bats.
It is best to consult with your doctor or travel health clinic at least 4-6 weeks prior to your departure. They will be able to advise you about any vaccinations that you may need for your trip well before you leave, based on your specific travel plans.
What your doctor will need to know:
- When you plan to travel (time of year/season)
- The duration of your trip
- The regions of China you are visiting
- Your planned activities (i.e. if you are going trekking or visiting remote and/or wilderness areas)
- If you will be in contact with animals
- If you are up-to-date with your routine vaccinations
Your doctor may also conduct a general health check-up. This may be needed for your travel insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
If you are not up-to-date with your routine vaccinations, or if your doctor believes you may be at an increased risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable disease, then they may recommend that you get a booster or be vaccinated/revaccinated against a particular disease.
Some health insurance companies provide coverage for vaccinations. You will need to contact your health insurance provider to see what they cover.
When you see your doctor regarding your trip, Medicare may cover the total cost of your consultation fees (if it is a bulk billing practice), or otherwise a portion of the cost. However, if you need to be vaccinated, Medicare will not cover the cost of the vaccines themselves.
As the immunisation schedule for China is different to the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for Australia, you may need to check with your doctor to ensure that you are adequately protected against the diseases at risk within China. This of course will depend on how much time you have spent in Australia before returning to your home country.
It is important to remember that when returning to China, children do not have immunity to local illnesses. Likewise, parents or adults who have lived away from China for a while have declining immunity too. Also, the immunisation schedules for China and Australia may be different, so locals may be vaccinated against different diseases. So, the whole family needs to prepare for a healthy trip ‘home’.
Check the National Immunisation Schedule
The standard of healthcare facilities in China varies from place to place. So it is important you a prepared before heading off on your trip.
- Register your trip with Smart Traveller
- Ensure you’re up-to-date with your routine vaccinations
- Make sure you have enough of your regular prescription medicines
- Take out travel insurance to cover you and your family for medical and other costs resulting from unexpected incidents and accidents
- Put together a travel kit with paracetamol and aspirin, diarrhoeal medicine, oral rehydration salts, antiseptic lotion or ointment, adhesive bandages and other wound dressings, insect repellent, sunscreen, latex gloves, thermometer, motion sickness medicine, water purification tablets and compression stockings
See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before departure to discuss your travel health requirements.
- The tap water in China is not safe to drink.
- Drink bottled or filtered water only and check the plastic seal on bottled water is intact (some stores have been known to sell boiled water in recycled bottles). Avoid adding ice to your drinks, and check that salad and fruit have been washed with filtered water prior to consumption.
- Traveller's diarrhoea is common in China. To protect yourself, practice good handwashing hygiene and eating and drinking safety.
- Avoid mosquito bites, as dengue fever is quite common in the south of the China. There is no vaccination for dengue fever, but you can protect yourself with insect repellent, wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs, and staying in accommodation that has fly nets or screens provided.
- Avoid animal bites
- Use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, human papillomavirus, herpes, syphilis, hepatitis B and AIDS.
Sources & Citations
- Worldometers, China Population (live). Available at: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/china-population/ [accessed 10 May 2018]
- World Population Review. World City Populations 2018. Available at: http://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/ (accessed 14 May 2018).
- Australian Government, Austrade. Outbound Tourism Statistics. Available at: https://www.tra.gov.au/research/australians-travelling-overseas/outbound-tourism-statistics/outbound-tourism-statistics (accessed 14 May 2018).
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018 Yellow Book Traveler’s Health. Available at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/select-destinations/china [accessed 10 May 2018]
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Information for Travelers to China. Available at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/china [accessed 10 May 2018]
- Finder, Travel Vaccinations – Can I claim travel vaccinations on my private health insurance? Available at: https://www.finder.com.au/travel-vaccinations [accessed 10 May 2018]
- Lonely Planet. Asia – China – Health. Available at: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/china/health [accessed 10 May 2018]
- International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. Country Health Advice – China. Food & Water Safety: Overview. Available at: https://www.iamat.org/country/china/risk/food-water-safety-overview [accessed 10 May 2018]
- Wu et al; 2010. Dengue Fever in Mainland China. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929067/ [accessed 10 May 2018]
- WPRO | Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease Information Sheet. Available at: http://www.wpro.who.int/emerging_diseases/hfmd.information.sheet/en/ [accessed 10 May 2018]
- World Health Organisation. International Travel and Health. Available at: http://www.who.int/ith/vaccines/en/ (accessed 15 May 2018).
SPANZ.SAPAS.18.04.0145 - Date of preparation July 2018Show All